Tales of Sin & Fury, Part 1 (10 page)

BOOK: Tales of Sin & Fury, Part 1
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‘You are OK?' Lefteris rushed down to help her.

‘I think so,' Anthea groaned. ‘I'm so sorry.'

‘What happened?'

‘I lost my footing. How embarrassing.' She struggled to right herself, like a tortoise fallen on its back.

Lefteris started to pick up her belongings. ‘No broken bones?'

Anthea was on her knees. ‘I'm fine. I just feel an idiot.'

‘Perhaps you sit for a little while? To gather yourself.'

Anthea perched on the second to bottom step and brushed herself down.

‘Not an idiot, no,' he said as he retrieved a tin of tomatoes that had rolled into the broom cupboard. ‘Accidents, they happen. I see you are a busy woman.' He was assembling her books and papers. He picked up the file with the label ‘Prophecy in Ancient Greece (1) Trophonios' and looked at it with interest before handing it to her. ‘I wonder, what you hoped to find down here in the bowel of the earth?' He smiled, ‘Perhaps like the visitors to Trophonios you were hoping to find a response from the oracle?'

She took the books, folders and food from him and stuffed them back into her bags. ‘Thank you.'

‘You are sure you are not hurt?' He reached out a hand and helped her back to her feet.

Anthea returned his smile. ‘That would be typical. Diving into a hole looking for revelation, and all I get is bruises.' She started to grin.

‘Perhaps that is after all the real truth of life,' his eyes shone and a chortle burst out of him. ‘And I see that you have at least recovered the ability to laugh…' He held out a stray brussel sprout to her as they stood together at the bottom of the stairwell chuckling.

Monday 17
December 12.30 pm

‘This pizza like cardboard,' says Beverly.

‘I'm gonna lose a tooth,' says Mandy.

Debs is sitting on her bed toying with a few strands of over-cooked cabbage nestling beside the pizza. ‘You gonna eat something, Karina?'

I think she gets my name wrong on purpose. I don't have the energy to protest. I turn back to the cell wall, where I've just started drawing another web.

Mandy brings my food and drink over to me. ‘Being artistic again, are we? I never noticed, you're left-handed.'

I lick the end of the squashed felt tip pen and carry on.

Mandy tries again, ‘Where's the spider?'

I shrug. The effort of reaching out through the layers of fog is too great.

‘Here's ya food,' says Mandy, ‘if you can call it that.'

I put down the pen and take the paper plate and cup. Not that I feel like eating anything any time soon.

‘So what's this writing class you went to?' Debs asks Mandy. ‘You took your time.'

‘It's cool,' says Mandy, sitting down on my bed to eat her lunch. ‘I done it here before. He's all right, the tutor. He remembers your name and everything.'

The neon lighting glares down onto the meal.

I climb up next to Mandy. I try a sip from the cup and nearly spit it out: ‘Even the water tastes bad, or is that me?'

‘Both,' says Mandy.

‘You learning about spelling?' asks Debs.

‘It ain't that kind of class.' Mandy pulls a face at her. ‘You write what you like. About your life. Or make up stuff.'

‘Like writing a novel?'

‘Only short bits. Like what's pinned up outside the dining room.'

‘Poems, you mean,' says Debs. She breaks off a small bit of pizza.

‘Yeah. And he teaches you all that stuff, like metaphors. Know what they are?'

‘Got enough problems already,' says Debs.

Mandy picks up the pizza from her plate and goes to pull some handwritten pages out of the cupboard beside her bed. ‘It's different ways of saying things. One thing is like another. Get it? That's what you do in poems.'

‘You never told us,' says Debs. She abandons her meal and comes across to Mandy. ‘So is that what you done today?'

‘It ain't a poem. Leave it, girl. I ain't showing you nothing.'

Debs grabs at the sheets of paper. ‘Go on, bet it's good.'

Mandy lifts them out of reach. ‘Bugger off.'

‘Let's have a read,' says Debs.

‘You can't read my writing.'

‘You read it out then.'

‘Fuck me, pushy or what? You'd better not laugh or I promise I'll give you a good kicking.'

‘That's it, you read, Mandy, girl,' says Beverly from her bed, ‘No-one will be laughing.'

With the remains of her pizza in one hand and the sheets of paper in the other, Mandy starts to read. Her voice sounds unusually formal:

‘The moor was dark. The wind cut like a knife in a wound. There was twisted scraps of metal scattered on the heather. There was part of the wing of a plane snapped like a broken arm. Hanging over a stone wall. There was two empty seats sitting beside a hole in the ground. There was a metal trolley laying on its side with snacks spilled out onto a nettle patch. Sandwiches in their wrappings fallen out of the sky. There hadn't been no hot meal on the flight. Most of the passengers weren't hungry.

‘People moved about the plane wreck slow like shadows. They turned over scraps of metal with their feet. They pulled back when they saw the more lifelike bits. One man had a torch. He shone it on the leaves under his feet and on a suitcase handle without a suitcase.

‘Sam Fox joined him …'

‘Who's Sam Fox?' Debs interrupts.

‘That model,' says Mandy. ‘Big tits, been on telly, you know.'

‘What's she doing there?' asks Debs.

Mandy licks tomato paste off her fingers. ‘I'll tell you later.'

She carries on reading:

‘Sam Fox joined him. She said “I can't make things out too good any more.”

‘The man moved the torch round in a bigger circle so she could see. He asked her “What you looking for?”

‘She said “My virginity. I was always very careful. But here I reckon anything could have happened.”

‘There was a part of the cockpit on the ground. The man bent down and lifted the corner to look under.

‘She said “What about you? What you looking for?”

‘He said “My confidence. I think it got blasted to pieces.”

‘Sam Fox hitched up her hipsters. She said “Them cheap airlines. They cut corners.”

‘He said “It could of been a terrorist attack.”

‘She sighed. She said “Never thought I'd lose it in an international incident. It's embarrassing, being as it's something so personal.”

‘Some other people were coming towards them holding hands in a line, going through the wreckage slow and careful.

‘The man called out to them. “You lot found anything?”

‘One of them shouted “The torch would help.” The darkness was squeezing them in more and more like tightening a belt. There was a fat woman about 60, she was looking for the breaks she never got in life. There was an ex-con looking for a fresh start. There was even a thin old geezer in his 80s with a posh voice looking for God. That raised a laugh, like dry bones rattling together. “You got chances,” somebody said.

‘A man in a brown raincoat was looking for forgiveness.

‘“It's too late” called a worn-out woman with a shavedhead boy on her arm, they was both wearing old trainers. “It's too late for all of us. It's dark, it's all over. None of us is going to find nothing now.”

‘“I got this ham sandwich,” says her son. A cold wind kicked up across the moor.

‘The mum's trakkie bottoms was flapping at the knees. “I'm looking for self-respect, love. Sandwiches won't help.”'

After Mandy finishes reading, there's a silence.

‘Is that it?' asks Debs.

‘That's it, mate. Not going to write no more.'

There's another silence.

‘Did you write all that in one session?' I ask. She's only been gone an hour or so.

‘I scribble fast,' says Mandy.

‘What's it all about?' asks Debs. ‘How d'you think up all that stuff?'

‘You just sit there,' says Mandy, ‘And you get ideas dropping onto your head like seagull shit at the seaside. Splat. Just like that.'

‘And what's that Sam Fox doing in it?'

‘I'm not sure I get it,' says Beverly.

‘I'll tell ya,' says Mandy. ‘In the class today, Sir gives a piece of paper to each person, right. At the top you have to write down a place, any place, then fold it over and pass it on. The next person writes something somebody's lost, then fold it down and pass it on. The next one writes a name, any name, a real person or made up, and pass it on. The person who gets the bit of paper at the end, right, she opens it up and she has to write something with all three things in it. I got an air crash near Glasgow. Then something lost, that was virginity, and the name was Sam Fox. So I had to write something and put them all in.'

‘That is good writing,' says Beverly. ‘I know. I used to read a lot before I went back on drugs.'

‘What d'you think, Corinne?' Mandy asks me.

‘It's got atmosphere' I say. ‘It comes across as sad.' I can't stop myself from adding, ‘I wish I could write something like that.'

‘Careful what you wish for, babe,' says Mandy. ‘Believe me, you don't want no part of my life.' She folds the sheets of paper and stares at the ground. ‘They cut down my methadone today. I'm starting to feel like I've got a bad dose of flu. Not too bright. I'm glad I done that writing, OK, but I still feel crap.' She screws the pieces of paper up into a ball, goes to open one of the narrow windows, and throws it out.

Monday 17
December 10 pm

, after a delicious Moussaka they all died and went to heaven and lived happily ever after,' said Freddie with finality. He laughed and fingered the gold earring in his right ear. He shook his light brown dreadlocks out of his eyes, drew on the joint in his hand and passed it to Ashik.

Ashik cupped it in his hands to suck on it, then added ‘
, after three days they were sent to hell.' With a satisfied nod he passed the spliff on to Vicente.

Vicente paused and his smooth features were composed while he studied the smoldering spliff as if he was looking for inspiration. Finally he smiled and with a strong Brazilian accent added ‘
, they were all masochists so they really did live happily ever after – in hell.' He stubbed out the roach in a scallop shell which was spilling ash onto the goatskin rug.

The three men giggled about their game until they forgot what they were laughing about, and the moment of hashblown hilarity drifted away.

Ashik stroked his brown face, stretched and yawned. ‘But that Moussaka Anthea makes is seriously good, man. And that Greek salad he makes, that Morton. Olive oil and oregano, yeah…'

They were sprawled out on cushions and rugs on the floor of Freddie's room. Around them lay musical instruments: two guitars, a violin. Freddie's bed was unmade. The bedside lamp gave a low light. On the wall, a Jimi Hendrix poster. Next to it, a small flyer declared ‘WHO NEEDS OIL? Hemp can produce 10 times more methanol than corn, the 2
best living fuel source.' Beneath a series of diagrams, the flyer concluded in bold letters: ‘MAKE HEMP, NOT WAR!' Next to that, blue-tacked on the wall, was a passport-sized photo of a woman with wispy blond hair; her smile was wistful and her chin rested in be-ringed hands. An irregular outline on one side showed where scissors had cut off the image of a person next to her. Below it a unicycle leant against the wall, with a red windcheater over it. At the window a faded paper blind with a rainbow on it was pulled halfway down. Vicente was looking out:

‘Fred, there is something strange has happened to your garden.'

‘That's Ant,' said Freddie. ‘You know she's an archaeologist. She's got a bee in her bonnet. Something about bones. She buries them.'

‘I thought archaeology was to dig up bones, not bury them,' said Vicente.

Freddie shrugged. ‘It's the dog that likes to dig them up. That's why it's a bit of a mess down there.'

At the end of the garden, you could see the backs of the row of houses in the next Dalston street. They loomed in silhouette, and through the darkness the back first floor window of the facing house showed like an illuminated picture frame. Two figures moved to and fro in front of the light. Vicente looked across. He picked up a camera lying on the bed and hunched like a cougar preparing to leap on its prey. He followed the figures with his lens and adjusted focus. ‘Fred, your neighbours are having a little argument. I can't hear what they're saying, but,
, they don't look happy.'

‘They're always at it,' Freddie shrugged. ‘Christmas spirit, probably makes it worse. Not much comfort and joy there. You're not taking photos?'

‘No, no,' said Vicente.

‘Can't intrude,' said Freddie.

‘It's not that,' said Vicente, ‘Just that it doesn't look anything through the lens.
. It won't make a picture.'

Ashik laughed. ‘Vicente's like, anything for a picture… Tell me this, man. You're walking down the street, right, and you see a murder happening. Do you stop the murder or do you take a photo?'

Vicente pretended to think long and hard. He pronounced, ‘I stop the murder.' He paused and then whispered fast. ‘Just as soon as I have taken a photo… ' He gave a wicked smile, planted a kiss on his camera and put it back on Freddie's bed.

‘So what you doing for Christmas, Freddie, man?' Ashik asked. He cracked his knuckles one by one, ‘Any comfort and joy for you?'

‘Nothing special,' said Freddie. When he relaxed, his face had a look of tired innocence, as if he had been through more experiences in life than he had chosen. He added, ‘Ant and Morton always do a turkey.'

BOOK: Tales of Sin & Fury, Part 1
3.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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